Bearing Witness to the Holocaust: The Toilet Facilities at Auschwitz

According to historians Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan Van Pelt, in their history of Auschwitz titled, Auschwitz (Norton 1996, p. 268), toilet facilities were minimal:

The “privy” meant to serve 7,000 inmates was a shed with one concrete open sewer serviced by far too little water, no seats, no “shame walls” for privacy, and one long beam as a back support. The result was a catastrophe. Gisella Perl, an inmate of BA I after it had become the women’s camp of Birkenau, succinctly described the situation the prisoners faced. “There was one latrine for thirty to thirty-two thousand women and we were permitted to use it only at certain hours of the day. We stood in line to get in to this tiny building, knee-deep in human excrement. As we all suffered from dysentery, we could rarely wait until our turn came, and soiled our ragged clothes, which never came off our bodies, thus adding to the horror of our existence by the terrible smell which surrounded us like a cloud.” The construction itself was an affront. “The latrine consisted of a deep ditch with planks thrown across it at certain intervals. We squatted on these planks like birds perched on a telegraph wire, so close together that we could not help soiling one another.” 

And here are women at Auschwitz, newly processed and shaved, selected for forced labor:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to Bearing Witness to the Holocaust: The Toilet Facilities at Auschwitz

  1. Shanaya says:

    saddens me, greatly…

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